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Mary Biddinger




My pockets were always good pockets, and empty

of the things that would condemn me. When I ran

the streets it was with purpose. I was never afraid

of the ball, even when it came smashing through

my windshield on the freeway. It wasn’t a ball.

It was my neighbor’s head, and there was no car,

just a canoe on its side. You can’t paddle it that

way. They called me the queen of portage. Stood

me at the edge of the dock and said go. Permitted

thirty seconds for a full contemplation before: go.

Only tied cinderblocks on when I deserved them. 

Everyone knew how much I fancied a challenge.

We had no mountain to go tell it on. Instead just

acre upon acre of dead barns and their wet thighs.

My mother cut the pockets out of my pants, shut

the seams with glue. We spoke of this no more.








We liked what we liked and we liked

hard. We were constituted of eighty-five percent


gloss, fifteen percent matte. We knew

how to squat, and we also had no idea how to


snake a drain, but we were colorless

and nearly odorless. We shook hands but never


looked anyone in the eye. Everything

was so symbolic. I have caught this fish, or, how


violently I salute the flag above me.

I did not build this log cabin, but my forefathers


died of starvation on a ferry only half-

way to their destination, so here is my blue ribbon


for, you know, almost making it. We

loved to make it. Sometimes in a congested parking


facility. Other times right there in front

of the very obvious memorial, serving to remind all


that stone is heavy. We only had reverse

tan lines. Our scanties were more modest than our


dungarees. Often we had no idea where

the horizon started. The trees were just an errant


clump of ink. Somebody had omitted

my left hand, but you always knew where to put it.

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